Even though pregnancy is a time for celebration, it can have some rather unpleasant side effects, from aches and pains to hormone imbalance. Fortunately, there is a gentle and pleasant solution. Prenatal massage has swept its way into pregnancy health plans everywhere. Under proper care, prenatal massage is a safe, noninvasive method of relieving many pregnancy woes.
Regulation of Hormones
Massage has been proven to increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin. These are hormones in the body that, when at low levels, can increase depression. Stress hormones, such as cortical and norepinephrine are reduced during massage. This is very important, given that 10-20% of women will develop depression during their pregnancy.
Prenatal massage assists in relaxing the expectant mother’s body and relieving stress, which can allow for a more comfortable and timely childbirth. When the mother becomes particularly stressed or anxious, her body will react with a “fight or flight” response. Her instincts detect there is something in the environment that is creating stress or is unsafe. This is especially important towards the end of the pregnancy because when the mother’s body feels the environment is not safe, she may be more likely to carry past her term in order to protect her child. Because massage therapy aids in reducing stress, having body work done regularly will decrease these chances.
Decrease in Swelling
Swelling in pregnant women is generally caused by decreased circulation and pressure on major blood vessels. As the uterus expands to accommodate the baby’s growth, it tends to weigh on blood vessels in and around the abdominal cavity and pelvis. Massage can stimulate the soft tissue of the muscles and vessels to decrease fluid retention, allowing for proper disposal of tissue waste by the lymphatic system. In turn, this decreases the swelling in the joints.
Relief of Nerve Pain
During pregnancy, many women experience sciatic pain. Because of the location of the uterus in the body, pressure tends to spread throughout the pelvic floor and into the legs. This constant pressure causes the muscles surrounding the area, such as the gluteus and piriformis, to become inflamed. When these muscles become swollen, they compress the sciatic nerve, sending pain down the entire leg. Prenatal massage will decrease the inflammation and release the sciatic nerve from its compressed state.
Can Massage Help the Baby?
During massage, the mother’s body will fall into an extremely rested state. Her heart rate will decrease to a more relaxed level. In turn, the baby will feel the same comfort and relaxation. It is important to remember that the baby will feel whatever the mother feels. What better environment to bring a baby into than one free of stress and discomfort?
Prenatal massage is a wonderful way to help with many of the discomforts of pregnancy; however, before you see a prenatal massage therapist you should consult your healthcare provider if you have experienced any of the following:
- Previous pre-term labor
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
- High risk pregnancy
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
When choosing a prenatal massage practitioner, it is very important to find one with the proper training and education. While most massage therapy schools do teach massage with pregnancy in mind, it is suggested you seek a prenatal massage therapist with the proper credentials. Don’t worry, we have plenty of Massage Therapists at VMW who specialize in prenatal massage!